I have noticed when using wood like pine , spruce ,fir and other softwoods
for furniture projects that when stained produce an amateurish looking
result my question ,is paint a more suitable finish?
IME, amateur is as amateur does. :)
Seriously, part of a professional looking project is the experience and
know how to choose the appropriate wood for the project, and that
includes being experienced enough to know how to finish the chosen wood.
There have been beautiful projects done from all the woods you mention,
although most of those may not that be easy to finish.
A good book, like Bob Flexnor's "Understanding Wood Finishing", will
take you a long way to getting a professional look from any wood.
Yes, it can be. But also consider clear finishes, such as shellac,
Waterlox varnish (my favorite), other varnishes, lacquer (usually
sprayed), or just plain Johnson's Wax.
Swingy suggested Flexner's book while I recommend Jeff Jewitt's _Hand
Applied Finishes_. Different tastes. See if your local library has
those two and/or Dresdner's original _Wood Finishing Book_, which
rounds out books by the trio of recent experts.
That's the thing about needs. Sometimes, when you get them met,
you don't need them anymore. -- Michael Patrick King
First, many of us ARE amateurs, and paint should only be used on MDF or
The vast majority of the projects I have built have been made from cedar,
redwood, pine, and poplar.
I don't put anything on cedar or redwood except an oil based
polyurethane. The poly really brings out the natural color and grain, and
offers protection for the soft woods. In fact, we used T&G cedar for the
ceilings throughout our house, with nothing more than two coats of poly
on them. Beautiful! I built my wife a small bookshelf from redwood I
recycled from our old deck. It looks great and has held up well despite
being a soft wood.
Pine and poplar can be tricky to stain as they blotch easily. I almost
always apply Minwax Prestain Conditioner to these woods before staining
and usually have great results.
I built all of our kitchen and bath cabinets from regular #2 pine. I used
the Minwax conditioner, followed by Minwax "Windsor Oak" gel stain, and
three coats of Minwax poly. Yep, I buy most of my supplies at the local
home center. Such an amateur. :) We are very happy with the results. The
rustic knotty appearance looks great in our house. The only thing I wish
I had done differently was to stain the door panels before assembling the
doors. I always do that now, but didn't know about it back then. So, we
did end up with a bit of bare wood around the door panels when the panel
shrank. Thankfully, the Windsor Oak stain is fairly light anyway so it's
not really noticeable unless you go up to the door and look. I've never
gotten around to touching them up.
Poplar has always been the hardest for me to stain, as it blotches really
bad. The prestain conditioner usually helps, but not always. Still, I
built our entertainment center, computer desk, and many other items with
poplar. My favorite finish has been the prestain conditioner, Varethane
"Golden Mahogany" stain, and three coats of polyurethane.
I am currently working on an armoire for my in-laws, built mostly out of
poplar. For this project I used General Finishes "American Oak" gel
stain. I experimented with and without preconditioner, and found the gel
stain by itself actually looked better. I stained the entire poplar
armoire with the GF gel stain and didn't have any splotching anywhere.
I'm applying three coats of General Finishes "Arm-R-Seal" on top of that.
I am very happy with the way it's turning out.
By the way, if the stain job turns out horrible, you can always paint
over it. :)
No problem, I agree completely. I was just pointing out that you can get
good results with hard to stain woods like pine and poplar. It just takes
a bit more work than something like oak.
But, I'm always learning and trying to improve my woodworking and finishing
skills. I'm getting better, but still have plenty of room to grow.
I used a few of the redwood scraps to build corner shelves for our walk-in
shower. While they are out of the direct water flow in our 6'x6' shower
area, they're still exposed to water daily from soap dishes, shampoo
bottles, etc. I coated them with 4 coats of a spar varnish and didn't
expect them to last more than a year or two. It's now more than 7 years
later and there's no sign of any problems. I haven't done anything to them
other than basic cleaning.
Then again, a lot of the longevity is probably due to the redwood itself.
The deck boards were out in the elements for over 13 years before I
recycled them. They were the underlying support structure, not the surface
decking. I had to cut away a few rough ends and edges that had started to
decay, but the rest looked brand new after a pass through the planer.
I may have to give that a try some day.
I tried Charles Neil's Pre-Color conditioner, and did not have very good
results despite the positive reviews. Considering the price and extra steps
involved, the Minwax conditioner worked just as well.
Softwoods like pine have a tendency to splotch - the darker the stain
the worse it can look. It is a good idea, even necessary, to pre-
condition the wood just before staining. Minwax has a pretty good
conditioner. I have also read that mineral spirits will do the same
job but I have never tried it. Conditioner will, in itself, darken
the wood a little.
None of the above is a substitute for careful sanding and
preparation. Conditioning is just one of the final steps. Pine, fir,
etc, will provide a very nice appearance with preparation.
I've had good luck using a glue-size to precondition pine before
staining. I keep my glue brushes in a glass of water, and after
a time long enough that you have between a 20:1 and 10:1 ratio of
glue to water, the water can be applied to the pine and left to dry
prior to staining. This will prevent the uneven absorbtion of stain
which results in blotchiness (birch also responds well to this).
You can also make the glue-size yourself by dissolving white glue in
the appropriate ratio with water.
HomeOwnersHub.com is a website for homeowners and building and maintenance pros. It is not affiliated with any of the manufacturers or service providers discussed here.
All logos and trade names are the property of their respective owners.